Why the finale of ST: DISCOVERY left me feeling ANGRY and BETRAYED (editorial review)

SPOILERS MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON!

Before I begin blasting away at the season two finale of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I will give credit where credit is due. The entire production team obviously worked VERY hard to make “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” a fast-paced, well-acted, and visually stunning hour of television. It wrapped up a very complex season-long story arc without leaving any loose ends (that I noticed), and it was certainly an ambitious undertaking.

But as a Trekkie and, more basically, as a viewer, I finished the episode feeling angry and, to be honest, betrayed. And I’d like to tell you why.

Writers and their audiences make an “agreement” going in, a pact of trust, if you will. The writers ask that we viewers buy into what the writers are setting up in the narrative, and in exchange, the writers will create a compelling, suspenseful, emotionally engaging story to entertain us.

But in this episode, I felt that the tail (or the tale) was wagging the dog. The writers had to include certain scenes in order to cover the necessary tropes of an exciting, explosive season finale: death of a major character, cavalry to the rescue scene, hand-to-hand fight with the bad guy, etc. Nothing wrong with that in theory. But in order to hit those beats, the writers way too often had to violate the trust of the viewer. And it’s NOT simply that some scenes are inconsistent with “established” Star Trek canon. I’ve learned to expect that from this show, and I’ve mostly made my peace with it.

No, I am talking about violating the canon that the writers have already set up for themselves. And when I see these kinds of “sloppy” scenes (and there were a LOT of them this episode), I can only assume the writers simply don’t care that they’re writing something that makes no sense within their own narrative…either that or they think that their viewers don’t care.

Well, I care. And that’s why I’m sharing this longer-than-normal blog with you today…

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The SHIPS hit the FANS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING LOVE!

At first, I was thinking of titling this blog “The Big Good-bye” or “The Long Good-bye” or “We Get It Already—Everybody Is Saying Good-bye!” I also considered, “That’s Not Orange, Dammit; It’s Red!” But in the end, I didn’t want to sound harsh because it implies that I didn’t think this was a good episode.

The penultimate 13th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season, “Sweet Sorrow,” wasn’t a bad episode…far and away not! It finally showed us a redesigned bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 that didn’t feel like an Apple Store. In fact, I wanted to grab a Klingon time crystal, take this bridge back to 2007, kidnap J.J. Abrams, and shout: “THIS!!!!” In fact—looking at the uniforms, the handles in the Enterprise turbolift, the sounds of the bridge and the photon torpedoes, etc.—it might not be a bad idea to take a time detour to 2016, kidnap Bryan Fuller and whoever was the original production designer on Discovery, and shout, “THIS!!!!” even louder.

So yes, I liked the Enterprise and the people in it. And I just signed the Change.org petition to CBS trying to convince them to do a new CAPTAIN PIKE series on the Enterprise in pre-TOS. Serious no-brainer, CBS: don’t let Anson Mount get away!!!

But this episode also suffered from a number of weaknesses…many of them stemming from the fact that the season was originally set to be 13 episodes and, early on, a decision was made to stretch the finale into two parts. And there’s no doubt that the last episode will be an amazing, budget-blowing WOW!-fest. And about half of this episode was equally stunning. But there was also a lot—a LOT!—of filler. And ultimately, this episode felt (to me, at least), like being the passenger with a student driver who is constantly accelerating and then hitting the brakes hard and then repeating the process.

So for the next-to-last time this season, let’s dive into my thoughts on an episode of Discovery

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DISCOVERY’s twelfth episode: very watchable, but was it GOOD? (editorial review)

WE HAVE SPAM, SPOILERS, EGGS, SPOILERS, BAKED BEANS, AND SPOILERS!

As I watched the 3-minute teaser and opening scene of act one of “Through the Valley of Shadows,” STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s twelfth episode of season two, I was dreading having to write another critical blog. It’s not that I have anything against (of for) being negative about Discovery; I just don’t like having to sit through weak or boring episodes that don’t live up to the potential of the series.

We open on Michael Burnham (of course!) whose review of her mother’s time-logs is interrupted by a call from her adopted mother, Amanda Grayson. Yay, I thought! I love Mia Kirshner‘s portrayal of the character. But my hopes were quickly dashed as I saw Burnham yet again falling into self-pity and blaming herself for everything that goes wrong in the universe.

Amanda gets to complete her second short line of dialog just as she is interrupted by a Spock-knock at the door. Still not in uniform, Spock apologizes for the interruption, but the captain needs them. Amanda gets nine more words, and then the scene that began with such potential is over 63 seconds after it began. Sigh…

Then it’s a cut to a briefing—again! What episode this season hasn’t kicked off with some kind of briefing? But at least this one wasn’t interrupted by Tillybabble. In fact, Mary Wiseman doesn’t appear in this episode at all (she wasn’t available the week of filming)…and to be honest, I didn’t really miss her. The episode felt more “grown up” without Tilly stealing her scenes. The briefing itself wasn’t bad, although every time I hear Tyler or another Klingon say “Kay-lesh” (Kahless), I cringe. Worf managed to get through two different Star Trek series pronouncing it “Kay-less”—is it really that hard for this show to be consistent with canon???

Then we come back from the opening credits with a scene between Burnham and Tyler that, as usual, showed almost no chemistry between the two actors and characters. Some quick exposition, a passive-aggressive zinger from Tyler, and then Tyler hears a beep that starts the real episode.

And that’s when everything started getting really good (and not so really good)…

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STRUGGLE IS POINTLESS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS – THEY’RE PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST!

Last week, I wrote what was only my second negative review for an episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY for season two. And the blog resulted in surprisingly passionate responses on Facebook, particularly in the “big” (107K member) Star Trek group and the (40K member) Star Trek: Discovery group. Some folks agreed with what I said. Others didn’t. But a disturbingly high number of posts were just plain mean and confrontational.

While I won’t harp on this point too much—because complaining about nasty posts on Facebook is like complaining about the smell of animal poop at a zoo—I’d just like to point out a few examples of how to respectfully disagree with someone…

And here’s some examples of how to be a mean person…

All of this vitriol simply because someone has a different opinion from you??? When I was growing up, not everyone thought “The Doomsday Machine” was the best TOS episode like I did. But if someone thought “Spock’s Brain” was the best episode, I might quietly think they were weird, but I wouldn’t call them an “irrelevant shrub” (what odes that even mean???) or tell them to “PISS OFF” or suggest someone blow them out an airlock.

It seems lately that Star Trek: Discovery (like so many things in this world) has polarized us. And for some people, any criticism of this show is seen as an “attack” that must be defended with a counter-attack. It’s ridiculous…and so discordant with everything Gene Roddenberry ever tried to teach us.

The irony here is that I’ve actually written seven very positive reviews this season (you can read them here). I’m not a Discovery “hater” and happily praise the show when I think it’s been a decent episode. And when I don’t enjoy an episode, I share those thoughts, too. My opinion might not match yours, and that’s OKAY. We’re allowed to disagree.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling strongly about Star Trek and Discovery. But I challenge anyone to defend being obnoxious to someone simply for writing a blog review that they didn’t like.


All right, let’s move on to reviewing this week’s episode, “Perpetual Infinity”—which many of you will be happy (relieved?) to learn that I felt was a much stronger and more watchable episode than last week, and here’s why…

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Who let the air out of DISCOVERY this week??? (editorial review)

THE MOTHER OF ALL SPOILER WARNINGS!

The tenth episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season was called “The Red Angel.” I call it the “Oh, By The Way…” episode. In my opinion, it was the weakest of the second season so far, and not even as good as some of the first season episodes.

Even the positive reviews I’ve read so far have acknowledged that this was a “talky” episode, filled with a lot of quiet scenes where two or three or four people were just chatting with each other—mainly about plot exposition. The first 37 minutes were almost entirely that, with only the final 10 minutes picking up the pace with an exciting and engaging ending.

So what is an “Oh, By The Way…” episode? Glad you asked!

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ALEX KURTZMAN goes FOUR-for-FOUR in rescuing DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS WITH A CAPITAL “A”!

Remember last week when I said the eighth episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY season two was the best one yet? Well, the ninth episode, “Project Daedalus” just blew the eighth one away! I mean…WOW!

After the announcement last June of the firing of Discovery‘s previous showrunners, GRETCHEN BERG and AARON HARBERTS, fans were nervously awaiting the sixth episode of season two, the first to be produced entirely under the stewardship of new showrunner ALEX KURTZMAN, who was also officially named the Tsar of Trek (actually, only I named him that). Would Kurtzman save Discovery or ruin it? And once the sixth episode (which took Saru back to his home planet) showed a return to Star Trek values of hope and optimism, the next question became: was this one episode just a fluke, or is this the new normal for Discovery?

Well, it wasn’t the new Discovery normal; it was the starting point of a turbolift that has been ascending ever higher with each successive episode—with a trip home to Vulcan for Burnham (where she finds Spock), a trip to Talos IV (where we find Vina, and Spock finds himself), and now a trip to the very heart of Section 31 where we find…um, I did mention there would be spoilers, right?

Anyway, for a third week in a row, I watched the episode all the way through without stopping. I couldn’t look away! And with four episodes in a row that have each been, in succession, the best of the series, I feel that I can finally feel confidence in Alex Kurtzman. YAY!

Of course, a show-runner doesn’t work alone. But he does determine which people to hire and who does what. This episode was written by MICHELLE PARADISE (yes, she was born with that name) and directed by JONATHAN FRAKES. I don’t need to tell you about Frakes, as he’s done a little work in Hollywood before. But Paradise was just named as co-showrunner for Discovery in season three…and fans were again worried that this newcomer Paradise not be up for making Star Trek. Well, after this episode, as with Kurtzman—I’m not really worried anymore!

Okay, let’s start talking about this little gem…

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HOLY $#@*! When did CBS suddenly learn to make STAR TREK???

SPOILERS? HOW COULD THERE NOT BE SPOILERS?

I wasn’t gonna blog about this week’s episode. I really wasn’t. We were at Disneyland all day Friday and Saturday, and that’s usually my prime reviewing time. But OMF-ingG! What did I just watch????

It was STAR TREK. REAL Star Trek. The kind of Star Trek that gets me all excited and emotionally engaged and dying to see more. It was the kind of Star Trek that has me caring about the characters and not giving a crap that the uniforms are all shiny or the Tellarites now have tusks or the lens flares are multiplying like tribbles. Who cares??? This was a friggin’ STAR TREK!

If you hate Discovery or refuse to watch it or you stopped watching it in (or after)season one…I totally get and respect that. I spent nearly the entire first season kvetching, feeling angry and frustrated and even a little betrayed as a fan over CBS “ruining” this thing that I’d loved for the entire five decades of my life.

And honestly, I went into season two doubting that they could pull the rabbit out of their butts and fix things. Some “true believers” made the argument that TNG and DS9 weren’t exactly firing on all thrusters in their first seasons either, and they all got a lot better. But in my mind, Discovery was so far down into the hole that I didn’t think they would ever make it back into the light.

So if you’re wondering if Jonathan has been brainwashed by the CBS Talosians and tricked into typing a blog that raves about the eight episode of Discovery‘s second season, I invite you to check it out for yourself—just this one episode “If Memory Serves”—and see if you feel as surprised (and impressed!) as I do.

This was the kind of episode that I used to watch back in college…where it ended and I just wanted to TALK about it with other fans! And that’s why I’m writing this even though the episode aired three nights ago.

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Keep on SPOCKIN’ me, baby! (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY editorial review)

FORECAST: Moderate chance of SPOILERS

In season one, many readers wondered if I was just a “hater” and wouldn’t like anything I saw on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY no matter how good it was. But so far in season two, Discovery has been batting .667 with me, with four positive reviews and only two episodes so far that I felt warranted criticism.

So now that we’ve reached the halfway point of season two and the search for Spock has finally moved into the “found him!” stage, what did I think of the seventh episode, “Light and Shadows”?

I’ll let Spocko sum up my feelings…

Yep, I loved this episode. For a second week in a row, I watched through the entire episode without stopping or stepping away. I was completely engrossed, and the episode seemed to pass so quickly!

Of course, I should note that this was also the SHORTEST episode of the season so far, with a run-time of just 40 minutes. For comparison, the season premiere was a full hour, episodes 3-5 were about 50-52 minutes each, episode 6 was 56 minutes, and only episode 2 was under 50 minutes (only 44 minutes). So this latest episode was definitely a short one (which also means less expensive to make…but don’t tell anyone!).

Okay, before I get to reviewin’, I wrote some song lyrics after watching this episode—as a tribute to Michael Burnham’s “trek” through the two seasons of Discovery. If you don’t want spoilers or have any loyalty whatsoever to the Steve Miller Band, skip this next part…

I went from Shenzhou to the Disco all the way to the Mirro…
then Kaminar down to Vulcan and more…
Section 31 where the things they have done are taking me to Talos IV.
So keep on Spockin’ me, baby! Keep on Spockin’ me, baby!

Ahem. Okay, let’s dive in…

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ALEX KURTZMAN finally brings HOPE to STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS…GET YER SPOILERS HERE!

Okay, before I get to my review, please indulge me as I provide my own introduction to the sixth episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season, “The Sounds of Thunder.” And if you haven’t seen the episode yet, you totally will NOT understand this…

Faster than a speeding human…
More powerful than a Ba’ul wrist restraint…
Able to take command when Pike or Lorca aren’t around…
Look, up on the bridge!
It’s a kelp!
It’s a tall, thin alien!
It’s SARUPERMAN!
Yes, it’s SARUPERMAN…
Strange fugitive from another planet
Who came to Starfleet and proceeded to learn 90 different languages.
SARUPERMAN…
Who can sense the coming of death…
Crush ominous floating robots in his bare hands…
And who, disguised as Commander Saru,
Mild-mannered first officer of the
USS Discovery,
Fights a never-ending battle for balance, blueberries, and the Starfleet way.

Okay, now that’s out of my system. On to the review…

Ever since last June when Discovery show-runners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts were reportedly fired because of cost overruns and also for mistreating the staff writers, fans have been waiting to see what new showrunner and Trek Tsar Alex Kurtzman would do to the series. Would he be the savior who finally straightened out all of the problems with Discovery that made it feel, to many fans, like the show was NOT Star Trek?

Or would Kurtzman proceed to screw things up even worse? Does Kurtzman even “get” Star Trek (as he claims to be a true Trekkie)? After all, this was one of the three writers of Star Trek Into Darkness, a film many fans felt was the worst and weakest of the three reboot Trek movies.

Was Kurtzman to be Discovery‘s salvation or ruination? We would all find out with the sixth episode of season two, Kurtzman’s first episode as showrunner….

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DISCOVERY’S fifth episode of season 2… far from perfection! (editorial review)

SPOILERS UP THE WAZOO!!!

Oh, well.

After four very positive reviews from the guy known for his generally critical reviews of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s first season, some of my readers were beginning to wonder if Jonathan had been replaced with an alternate universe doppelgänger.

Not this time, though. “Saints of Imperfection” was just that: imperfection. Now, it’s not that I expect every episode of Discovery to be” perfect”—that starship sailed long ago!—but this one was far from it. In fact, it regressed into a lot of what I used to complain about often in season one: sloppy and lazy writing, rushing to “hit the beats” without giving characters or viewers a chance to emotionally process all that’s hurtling at us, unbelievable plot contrivances, predictability, and a host of other annoyances (at least in my book).

Granted, this was the final episode produced under the supervision of former show-runners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, who were reportedly fired because of cost overruns and also for mistreating the staff writers. Both reasons are very evident in this episode. Although the VFX looked gorgeous and could easily win an Emmy later this year, I can understand why the budget for Discovery was blown. And while I love watching exciting VFX, I much prefer a good story with characters I care about.

And that brings us to the writing, which surprised me because the writer, Kirsten Beyer, wrote the strongest episode of season one, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” (the one on the forest planet where Saru freaks out), and is also the only staff writer who has several published Star Trek (Voyager) novels. In other words, Kirsten knows her Trek and her writing. So what happened to so totally derail this episode and backslide into many of the old problems of season one?

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